KAPALA CHISUNKA, DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka
WHEN her niece hit puberty at the age of 13, Martha Mumbaâ€™s family decided to seek the help of traditional counsellors to train her concerning menstrual hygiene. That was in line with their tradition as it is something they have been practising for a long time.
Elderly women within the family found traditional counsellors who took her in to â€˜trainâ€™ for a month. The family anticipated that upon completion of the training, a well-trained young lady would be returned to them. However, it turned out otherwise.
â€œUpon her return, we noticed that she started preferring being in the company of boys and men even at odd hours. We also discovered she had started having sex. She would sneak out of the house at night,â€ Martha said.
Information gathered from her close friends revealed that the girl was bragging that she was an expert in sex after the training she had received. Her friends also revealed that she had been engaging in sex with boys in the neighbourhood and had volunteered to pass on the â€˜informationâ€™ about how to handle a man in bed to her young friends.
â€œThis was not our intentions for my niece. At her age, we thought the counsellors would censor information to pass on to her. There is no way that a 13-year-old girl can be taught about sex and how to handle men in bed.
As a family, we are disappointed with the traditional counsellors because what we thought was in the best interest of the girl but has turned out to be the worst thing we could have ever done,â€ she said with regret.
She said she cannot recommend taking a girl-child to counsellors to any parent or guardian and instead suggested parents take up that role now.
But one of the traditional counsellors from Kanyama township defended the role of the counsellors. The 46-year-old, who has been counselling since 1990, said it is unfair for people to constantly condemn traditional counsellors.
The counsellor, who sought anonymity, said Alangizi provide various counselling services to both men and women on subjects ranging from menstrual hygiene for young girls and home training as well as bedroom techniques for married women and those intending to enter marriage.
But Alangizi have also branched out to offer their services to unmarried women seeking to hook their affluent married boyfriends, services she said most have been offering secretly for years according to investigations by the Sunday Mail.
â€œYes, we are hired by single women to offer pre-marital counselling. But we do that for girls who have reached puberty. Their curriculum only covers menstrual hygiene, cooking and how to take care of a home.
But for women in the process of getting married and those intending to undergo refresher courses, we include everything including how to care for a man in bed and his overall well-being,â€ she said.
The training stretches for three to four months, for all categories of women to seeking the service or depending on how quickly a woman grasps the various topics and entire home training.
Charges for the â€˜trainingâ€™ of single women, those in the process of getting married as well as those already in marriage but seeking re-fresher courses vary.
For the single women, the charge is K1, 500 while for those preparing for marriage and those seeking re-fresher courses are charged K700. Apart from the K700, they are also expected to buy chitenge material as well as a live chicken.
â€œMaintaining marriage is not easy for anybody but we exist to ease the pressure. Women seek our services for various reasons but majority will also request for training on how to effectively meet their duties in the bedroom,â€ she said.
She said the services of the traditional counsellors are being appreciated especially among married women who have undergone the training. Unlike in the past, she is convinced that the fact that Christians have also started seeking the services was an indication in itself that they are doing something right.
She said she is current training two pastorsâ€™ wives who were brought in for refresher courses by their husbands.
â€œMen will be men and sex is sex regardless of religion. We appreciate what Christian counsellors teach the young women preparing for marriage but we are traditional counsellors and we touch all aspects of a marriage.
Our training encompasses everything that will benefit a marriage in all areas,â€ she said.
With regards to why they agree to train single women when hired, she said she does not go out looking for the single women but they follow her, though, of course, money can be a motivating factor.
Some single women however want to train just so they know how to treat a man and look after a home once they are married.
But on whether it is morally correct to train single women about how to please men in bed before they are married, she maintains that there is nothing wrong with sharing the â€˜much neededâ€™ information with adults willing to pay for the service.
â€œWe exist because we have a role to play in society. We have existed for so many years. If we were irrelevant, we would not still be here. Obviously, we cannot all be the same there are good Alangizi and bad ones, so people should not generalise just because of a bad experience,â€ she said.
But Bible Gospel Church in Africa (BIGOCA) overseer Peter Ndhlovu has condemned the training of unmarried women by the Alangizi.
â€œIt is wrong to teach young women about sex and how to please men. Sex is a tool which God instituted to unite couples. It was ordained for married couples only. What is happening is a sin, it is destroying our young people,â€ he said.
Bishop Ndhlovu instead advised couple to seek counselling from churches as they also offer joint pre-marital counselling to couples.
â€œAs parents, we need to monitor what we are allowing our children to undergo in the name of tradition. What is good for married couples and those intending to get married cannot be ideal for single women or those who have just hit puberty. It is wrong,â€ Bishop Ndhlovu said.
And Tabernacle of Praise assistant senior Pastor Walubita Siyanga said a marriage is patterned based on the principles that a couples carries into. Pastor Siyanga, who is also a counsellor, acknowledged that some couples prefer to align themselves with traditional views and principles of marriage.
â€œBut as a Christian, I would encourage Christians to go through the whole curriculum of marriage counselling according to the word of God because we are Christians and the word of God is important to inculcate into marriage,â€ he said.
He upholds the importance of Christian pre-marital counselling because marriage was Godâ€™s idea.
He advises that when people seek wisdom from God, they will have a marriage that is firmly established and rooted on God.
He condemned the training of unmarried women by traditional counsellors saying that is a recipe for disaster.
And one of the traditionally trained single women of Lusaka said she decided to seek pre-marital counselling from the Alangizi because she wanted to please a married man she was dating at the time.
She said she has dated both married and single men and that men enjoy being with women who know what they are doing in bed than those who are clueless about what it takes to sexually them.
KAPALA CHISUNKA, DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka